Many people call me after they are frustrated and sad that their partner won’t come to couples counseling or marriage counseling. For you it may feel like a dead end and that you are hopeless that your relationship will ever change. However, as a couples therapist I hold out hope because I know if there is just one person who is in the couple that is motivated, then change is possible.
Often spouses get tied into the idea that improvement will come if only their partner will change. They know that if their partner will just stop doing (fill in the blank) then things will be better. However this is a hard and long road to go down when you are waiting for the other person to make the shift.
WHEN ONE THING CHANGES IN A SYSTEM THE OTHER THINGS IN THAT SYSTEM HAVE TO CHANGE TO ACCOMMODATE.
If you always come through the entrance of your home and walk down the hall, things are the same. If I put a boulder in the middle of your hall you now have to climb over the boulder to get into your home.
Something has changed and now you have to accommodate that change. I know you are following me here…..if you change, your partner will have to change with you.
If the fighting, bickering, and nasty, negative comments stop on one side, the pattern has shifted. If one person begins to focus on bettering themselves and stops focusing on convincing the other person, well the pattern has shifted.
Good self care, a stronger support system, and a change in focus are excellent new goals you can make which will change your family system. You may want the support from a therapist to set goals and keep you going forward as well.
Now here is one problem that I see…..
I have watched one partner in the marriage or couple who has asked for many years to go to couples therapy, to be heard, to work on shifts as a team and to make a difference together in their relationship. Then there comes a time that they stop asking and they burn out. And they are done. And that is bad news for the person who refused to pay attention. Because once someone becomes emotionally removed it is very hard to come back and reconnect with your spouse. Even the most skilled couples counselor or marriage therapist may not be able to make the shift. The damage is done and the burned out partner wants out, and guess what? Now the one who was not motivated to change does cartwheels to attempt to keep their spouse or partner in the relationship. They beat their chest, they beg, cry, and sadly tell me that they wish they had listened long ago.
So if you are the one who wants couples therapy but your partner won’t go, work on the marriage yourself. Be the one to get your needs met and don’t wait for your spouse to change. And they may make that shift after all in response to your positive work.
And if you are the one who doesn’t believe in marriage counseling or couples therapy and you won’t talk to a stranger about your problems, or maybe you have other reasons for not going. Consider yourself years down the road attempting to make that shift when it is too late. Don’t wait too long to work on the marriage. Every single day, every SINGLE day, I hear a partner say “why did I wait so long to come here?” Ask yourself why are you waiting?